The race route in Saudi sands was much more reminiscent of the classic African Dakar than the rally roads of Argentina or the highlands of Bolivia. Separate stages could even be confused with Morocco!
In the first week, the race route was replete with canyons, channels of dried rivers and many intersecting paths: navigation in these conditions is puzzling! But the second half of the journey was remembered by the participants mainly for miles in the desert.
Many athletes noticed the almost complete absence of spectators at special stages: Dakar is almost unknown to ordinary Saudis
After the Peugeot team left the rally-raids, the struggle for leadership is between the Toyota factory team from South Africa and the German X-Raid team, which represents the Mini brand. Toyota for many years remain true to the classic combination of a V8 gasoline engine and all-wheel drive. For Dakar 2020, they prepared the next evolution of the Hilux prototype – with a new design spatial frame, an expanded gauge, an engine shifted closer to the center and a more streamlined cabin. The motor is a new version of the naturally aspirated V8 5.0 engine from the Lexus RC 500 with a 37mm intake restrictor.
The X-Raid team relies heavily on the rear-wheel drive Mini John Cooper Works Buggy buggy with BMW turbodiesel: Carlos Sainz and Stefan Peteransel performed on such cars. The current technical regulation gives these machines a significant advantage: they are lighter, the suspension travel and the wheel diameter are larger, and a diesel engine with one turbine “breathes” through a restrictor with a diameter of 39 millimeters. Thanks to this, they not only better cope with irregularities and jumps, but also more powerful than gasoline competitors – which means they have a higher maximum speed.
The rest of the crew of the X-Raid team performed on the already familiar all-wheel drive Mini John Cooper Works Rally. This is another evolution of the Mini prototype eight years ago – with a modified suspension and a new look. The motor is the same as the buggy: it is built on the basis of a serial diesel engine with three turbines, but for racing it is equipped with one turbine with a restrictor with a diameter of 39 millimeters. In the photo, Vladimir Vasiliev’s car: it burned down due to a crack in the fuel pipe. Fortunately, the crew was not injured.
At the first stage of the Dakar, Carlos Sainz lost his way, and Nasser Al-Attiyah pierced three tires – and, to everyone’s surprise, Vaidotas Jala showed the best time on a diesel purchased on credit! True, he did not succeed in staying in the top 10 in the future, and problems with the electrician at the very end of the race threw him to 26th place. So the Lithuanian’s best result at Dakar remains 12th last year when he performed at Toyota.
Two-time world rally champion Carlos Sainz added one more to his three victories at the Dakar. The Spaniard led the passenger standings from the third day of the race, winning 10 of 12 stages. What greatly contributed to the advantage of rear-wheel drive buggy in speed on straight lines and on broken roads! And, of course, Matador’s “roll” into cars of this type: he won his previous victory behind the wheel of a Peugeot 3008 DKR buggy.
On the prize podium, Carlos Sainz with Lucas Cruz (center), Nasser Al-Attiyah with Mathieu Bomel (left) and Stefan Peteransel with Paulo Fiusa (right)
Qatar Nasser Al-Attiyah is perhaps the best raid racer of our time. But his Toyota was noticeably inferior to rear-wheel drive buggies in speed, and the whole race he was forced to go to the limit. Which often led to punctures: tires with a smaller diameter on all-wheel drives keep bumps and cuts from stones worse. At the ninth stage, Nasser managed to almost close the gap with Sainz – but the difficulties with navigation again threw him back. Nevertheless, a six-minute lag behind Sainz at the finish of the race looks like a real feat.
The most experienced Russian navigator Konstantin Zhiltsov, who spoke with Vladimir Vasiliev for many years, this time assisted Yazid Al-Raji. The residents were satisfied with the race: the Saudi is professional and quick both on impassability and on hard ground – his preparation in the classic rally affects it. The Saudi-Russian crew finished in Dakar in fourth place – showing almost the maximum possible under these conditions.
Another navigator from Russia – Alexei Kuzmich – drove along the route of the Saudi racer Yasir Seydan. Previously, they already performed in the same carriage, but on a simpler technique of the standard class T2. Now, Seydan has transferred to the diesel prototype Mini top-level. The Saudis managed to shine – in some sections he walked at the pace of the leaders, twice showed the third time at the stage, even was second at the last stage … But something was not enough – either luck or stability: Seydan was very stuck on the eighth and eleventh stage. Nevertheless, the final result is respectful: Seydan and Kuzmich finished in ninth position.
This year, the organizing team, led by David Custer, prepared a novelty for the participants – ready-made travel books. They are issued immediately before the start, so that navigators could not pre-understand the route on maps and satellite images. This time the organizers did so in half the stages. On the remaining days, travel books required significant revision, so they decided to issue them in advance. But in this case, the judges made sure that the crews did not use additional navigators: for this purpose, the personal phones of the athletes were locked inside the car in special boxes, and the navigators of the leading crews were shot with two cameras.
For the Pole Yakub Pshigonsky, who finished last Dakar in fourth position, the current race was a disappointment: a car breakdown at the first stage threw him many hours ago. He reached the finish line of the race, but only in 19th position.
The performance of Formula 1 star Fernando Alonso attracted the attention of “Dakar” even those who usually do not follow off-road racing. For a beginner, Alonso got comfortable on the road – he regularly showed the times in the top 10, and at the eighth stage he was even second. True, there was no chance of a good result: the Spaniard even broke the suspension on a stone at the second stage – had to wait for the mechanics, two and a half hours were lost. And at the tenth stage, he also rolled over on a sharp dune – as a result, he lost his windshield, headlights, and an hour of extra time. By the way, the duties of the navigator at Alonso were performed by the famous motorcycle racer Mark Coma, a five-time winner of the Dakar. According to the results of the race, their crew took thirteenth place.
On the same dune where Alonso turned over, an amateur rider from Cyprus Roman Starikovich crashed. The flight of his yellow Toyota looked creepy, but ended relatively well. Both crew members have back injuries and a concussion, but their lives are not in danger, and navigator Bert Heskes in the hospital underwent a successful spinal surgery.
This “Dakar” was perhaps the most disastrous in the career of Nani Roma. The Spaniard, who has been participating in Dakar for 24 years, has transferred from the X-Raid Mini Team to the Borgward Chinese-German SUV, which is serviced by the Dutch from Wevers Sport. And ran into a whole bunch of technical problems! However, the Chinese roots have nothing to do with it, because in reality this prototype is the ex-factory Mitsubishi MPR14, the appearance of which was stylized as a Borgward. Two-time winner of “Dakar” reached the finish line in 27th place.
This car is a supercar shape – buggies of the South African company Century Racing. In the hands of the Frenchman Mathieu Serradori, the car proved to be not only beautiful, but also quick: he won the eighth stage and eighth place in the race. And if it were not for the “roof” at the tenth special stage, then there were chances to finish in sixth position. The rear-wheel drive, based on the French SMG buggy, is equipped with a seven-liter Chevrolet “eight”, a Sadev sequential gearbox and a BOS suspension.
Motorsports enthusiasts can remember Alexander Dorosinsky for his performances in the classic rally at Subaru – in 2004 he became the champion of Estonia, and in 2006 and 2007 he performed at individual stages of the World Rally Championship. Recently, a Uralian switched to rally-raids: he tried to defeat the past Dakar on an all-terrain vehicle, and at the start of the current one he went behind the wheel of a Mini prototype. Together with the navigator Oleg Uperenko, he successfully completed the entire race distance, finishing in the fourteenth position.
The crew of Denis Krotov and Ukrainian navigator Dmitry Tsyro on the Mini prototype finished in 17th place – two positions lower than last year.
The T2 class has not been popular for a long time: the Dakar is too heavy for standard cars, and the race usually turns into a struggle for the survival of the car. So this year, only four participants started in the class. And two finished – both from the factory team Toyota Auto Body. The winners are in the photo: the crew of Christian Laviel and Jean-Pierre Garcin.
In the cargo standings, the victory was expectedly left to KAMAZ athletes – competition from rivals was noticeably lower than in previous years. True, the race was still dramatic for the KAMAZ team: last year’s winner Eduard Nikolaev had a motor collapsed in the middle of the race, and after the repair he went off-set, and Dmitry Sotnikov (pictured) lost more than two hours due to a breakdown, and finished the race fourth.
The winner in the truck standings was Andrei Karginov’s crew: he won seven special stages, led most of the race, and at the finish, his lead over Anton Shibalov, who finished second, was over forty minutes.
This year, all four “combat” Kamaz were in the identical specification – with Cummins six-cylinder engines with a capacity of about 980 forces and an Allison hydromechanical six-speed gearbox.
The “bronze” from Saudi Arabia was taken away by the crew of Sergei Vyazovich from the Belarusian team MAZ-Sportavto. This year, he spoke on a completely new bonnet-mounted truck (his teammates rode on old bonnet-free vehicles). The American Caterpillar diesel engine is produced by the Czech Buggyra team and develops about 960 horsepower.
The powerful semi-factory team De Rooy Iveco acted in an abbreviated composition and could not compete with Kamaz – its leader Gerard de Roy did not participate due to a back injury. The best result in the team showed Janus van Casteren: sixth place.
Iveco numbered 517 was equipped with manual controls. Its driver is Albert Llover from Andorra (pictured): a former skier, partially paralyzed after an accident at a competition.
Ales Loprais spent most of his career on the Tatra Mountains, built by his team – but this year he changed the brand of the truck to Praga. However, in reality, trucks under this brand have not been produced for a long time, and his car is the bonnet Tatra, rebranded. For most of the race, the Czech went confidently in fourth position, until a semi-axle breakage threw him back.
Chilean Ignacio Casale – winner in the ATV class
Yekaterinburger Sergey Karjakin took second place in the all-terrain vehicle class on the BRP Can-Am cab, prepared by his Snag Racing team. Three years ago, he won the South American Dakar on an ATV. Thus, Sergey became the first Russian to become the Dakar winner in two different classes.
The winner in the all-terrain vehicle class, Casey Courier, an American, regularly participates in desert races in the USA – such as the Baja 1000, Baja 500, and Mint 400. In Dakar, he performed at the BRP Can-Am Maverick cab, prepared by the German South team Racing.
While most of the SSV category cars are built on the basis of serial ATVs with a variator. But it is possible that the future lies with cars such as the Belgian Overdrive Racing team: the OT3 all-terrain vehicle is based on a space-mounted frame and suspension from scratch, and the liter turbo engine along with the gearbox is borrowed from the Volkswagen Polo subcompact. The car is still completely damp, but the potential is visible: the racers won several victories at special stages.
American Ricky Brabek brought the Honda brand the first victory in Dakar in 31 years.
Last year’s Toby Price winner at KTM finished in third place.
The only Russian motorcyclist this year, Dmitry Agoshkov, performed in the Original by Motul class, implying maintenance of the motorcycle only on his own. Togliatti passed the entire race distance and finished in ninth place in his class
Last Friday, January 17, the Dakar off-road super marathon finished. The most prestigious rally-raid in the world since its creation in 1978 was held in North Africa, but in 2009 moved to South America. And now the race was first taken by Saudi Arabia. A route of nearly eight thousand kilometers passed through most provinces of the Middle East kingdom. At the port of Jeddah on the Red Sea, 342 participants took off – motorcyclists, ATVs, crews on passenger cars, ATVs and trucks: there are the rally-raid elite, ambitious newcomers, and well-to-do adrenaline lovers, and technical support crews … almost a third of the athletes took off-road, breakdowns and accidents. Alas, this time there was a tragedy: at the seventh stage, the Portuguese motorcycle racer Paulo Gonçalves died … The editors of the Motor collected photos that best convey the atmosphere of the Dakar. Welcome to our gallery!